As a bright eyed 16 year-old, I had my life all planned out. So many goals, aspirations, and dreams I wanted to achieve. Little did I know that less than a year later I would be diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and two years later, depression.
At the age of 16 I felt like my entire world was coming to an end, and no one could save me. I lost all drive and purpose in my life and just wanted to curl up into a ball and forget the world. I had been dancing since the age of three. I lived, breathed, ate and slept dancing. It was what defined me as a person; it was my therapy and my escape from the trivialities of teenagehood.
Not long after my 16th birthday I was sexually assaulted by my dance teacher’s son. My entire world came crashing down around me. I became numb, in a state of shock and the one thing I love more than anything was ripped away from me, spat on, and forever tainted.
I lost everything – who I was, my innocence, my happiness, my joy, my friends, even myself. I felt like an empty shell, just going through the motions. It took me two months after the fact to even tell anyone. I felt dirty and damaged, like everyone could see it on me. I went from a great student to failing my subjects at school and skipping classes, even some of my teachers noticed a change in me. I finished the school year and then dropped out.
I hid away from the world. For six months I didn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary. I didn’t see any friends, I shut everyone out of my life except for my family, and even then I hid in my room mostly. Eventually I was reluctantly dragged by my Mum and boyfriend to see a psychiatrist. It was hard and I hated it – I had to relive every little detail and cried my eyes out the whole time.
Eventually it did get easier. I was able to talk about it more, and talking about it somehow made it easier to detach myself from it. It just became a story, just another chapter in my life. The hardest part was trying to convince myself that it happened to me, but it doesn’t define me as a person, especially because it changed a lot of my life decisions I had already made.
I continued to see my psychiatrist once a fortnight for the next year. It became less and less about the sexual assault and more about my life in general, realising how it has affected my coping mechanisms, my tolerance of people, dealing with my anxiety, and issues with my father. My psychiatrist helped me find some clarity in this world of madness.
Seeing a psychiatrist is a lot of hard work. You have the pressure of wanting to get better, not just for yourself but for your loved ones as well. Seeing a psychiatrist seems to be a taboo subject. Honestly, I was proud I was making the effort but I didn’t like telling people I was seeing one. However, you will find that most people have either been to see a psychiatrist (or psychologist) themselves or know someone who has. It’s perfectly normal to need to talk out your issues and it helps to get an unbiased opinion.
My psychiatrist gave me the strength to enrol in further tertiary study, and even though I needed my brother or grandmother to take me there, I slowly got better with my anxiety. Eventually, I was able to leave the house and go by myself.
I continued to go to a psychiatrist because I believed it was a better option than antidepressants – to me they are a “quick fix” to patch up issues, but not resolve them. However, after everything I went through I fought for three years not to go on antidepressants, but at the end of the day if there is a chemical imbalance in the brain it needs to be corrected. Antidepressants have their place but they shouldn’t be the only option.
I haven’t come across anyone who wants to go see a psychiatrist – we are perfectly happy to live in a state of denial. However, someone usually forces your hand, and they do this because they love and care about you. At the time, you may have wanted to scream at them, to hate them, but by the end of your experience you’ll thank them. Everyone has scars, battle wounds, and war stories. They are nothing to be ashamed of, they make you who you are, but they aren’t all of who you are.
By Seana McGuigan (aged 19 years)